Non-Book Review: Beyond The Gates Of Fire

Non-Book Review: Beyond The Gates Of Fire

Beyond The Gates Of Fire: New Perspectives On The Battle Of Thermopylae, edited by Christopher Matthew & Matthew Trundle

At first glance, this would seem to be a very odd book for the De Re Militari, the Medieval military history society, to review [1]. After all, anyone who knows anything at all about the Battle of Thermopylae knows that it happened in ancient Greece, in the fifth century BC, and that the hot gates of that Greek pass were held by 300 brave Spartans immortalized in history, with even a couple of movies devoted to their heroism. We may be able, even, to quote some of Leonidis’ lines from some of the movies, including his quip about fighting in the shade of Persian arrows. That said, it may not be obvious at all what this has to do with the history of the Middle Ages, seeing as the Middle Ages did not even begin until nearly a millennium later. Given the interest of people in Greek history, it seems likely that this odd placement of a book seemingly far outside of its time is what accounted for the fact that it has not been reviewed for a long time. Being the sort of person who has compassion on unwanted books, particularly when they do look like an interesting read, I finally requested the book for myself, so that it can at last be read and reviewed. Pen & Sword can thank me for my generosity anytime they want. I appreciate free books.

As this book is only about 160 pages before its lengthy endnotes, I do not expect it to take long to read and review. Flipping through the book somewhat idly to get a sense of its contents, I see a total of eight chapters, including ones on the follow-up to the famous Battle of Thermopylae, the battle itself, the topography of the pass in 480BC, an examination on whether the battle was a suicide mission, the remembrance of the battle in antiquity, the connections made between the battle and Herodotus’ account of Homer’s Illiad, as well as other battles of Thermopylae and the idea of the glorious defeat. It is these last two chapters that would appear to have the only possible connections of this book to the history of the Middle Ages, and I will particularly be looking for something, anything, that would be of interest to a medieval military historian in this book that is almost completely about the history of ancient Greece. No one ever said I took straightforward and simple tasks upon myself when it came to reading and reviewing books, after all.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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